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Will Azure Active Directory Premium boost cloud adoption?

When Microsoft Azure Active Directory Premium rolls out next month, cloud users will have granular access controls, single sign-on and more.

IT pros using Microsoft Azure's Active Directory features will get extended capabilities -- but it comes at a cost.

The company will roll out Azure Active Directory Premium in April, which enhances the offering beyond the single sign-on services it offers in the free Azure Active Directory version With the premium service, the single sign-on feature extends to allow or restrict access using customized groups.

It also includes self-service password and group management; the former will allow password resets without a helpdesk call, while the latter will allow administrators to assign group management to members. For on-premises users, the ability to reset passwords will come in a preview release.

Azure Active Directory Premium will also support multi-factor authentication, customized branding and analytics features.

It's billed by Microsoft as a way for IT admins to manage and limit access to applications for enterprise users. The company already has 1,100 applications that work with single sign-on, with that number expected to grow.

Security remains a big obstruction to cloud adoption, and this Active Directory (AD) service could alleviate that concern.

"If this announcement helps overcome security barriers, it could be the differentiating factor for Microsoft Azure for enterprises," said Larry Carvalho, research manager on Platform as a Service for IDC, an IT research firm based in Framingham, Mass.

The Azure AD Premium features are an add-on service available through a Microsoft's Enterprise Agreement. Pricing is on a per-user, per-month basis, and is only available through an Enterprise Agreement, which is negotiated by contacting a Microsoft representative, the company said. 

"You only need Azure AD if you have already moved applications into the cloud," said Mike Drips, solutions architect at WiPro, an IT services provider based in Houston. "All AD says is, you have permission to use SharePoint and Office or Dropbox. So if you have a large cloud presence in the enterprise, sure AD makes sense"

The general availaibility date came as part of a press event along with the introduction of the Enterprise Mobility Suite and Office for iPad.

Ed Scannell, Senior Executive Editor for, provided additional reporting.

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